Probably most people who are enthusiastic about the back-to-basics, self-sufficiency movement have heard of John Seymour, who is often called "The Father of Self-Sufficiency". His classic book, The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, is a real gem and likely sits on many of our bookshelves. He also wrote an interesting little volume called The Fat of the Land which details the adventures he and his wife had starting up their first homestead in the UK back in the late 60s. I plan on reviewing both of these books in due time, but today I'd like to talk about Seymour's volume committed exclusively to gardening: The New Self-Sufficient Gardener.
This book is an updated 2008 edition of the original, which was published in 1978. Simply put, this is a wonderful book for those of us who want to do more than just putter in the garden, but actually get serious about producing our own food. Seymour explains--in his unique, no-nonsense style--how to garden organically, how to best enrich the soil, how to maximize space in the garden and how to obtain the greatest yields possible. He also talks about preserving food, and other things complimentary to gardening, like keeping chickens, building fences, or making your own wine.
There are no photographs in this book; instead, the pages are filled with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations. This feature alone makes the book a delight to read.
There is a large section near the beginning of the book with nothing but illustrations, to help the gardener identify and classify all the different plants. Later, the book moves onto more detailed instructions, plant-by-plant. Some of the more commonly grown plants, like tomatoes or potatoes, get several pages of information.
All told, I like this book very much and I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to be more self-sufficient by gardening. If you already own The Self-Sufficient Life, I would add that The New Self-Sufficient Gardener contains a great deal more information about specific plants; for example, while The Self-Sufficient Life contains only one paragraph about growing melons, this book has a full page about melons.
The book that I have photographed above is actually a library book; but although I can get this book any time from my nearby branch, I think it is one I would like to purchase so it can have a permanent place in our personal homesteading library.